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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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Chapter IV. — Hostilities with the Dessamopeak, Sicopan, and Aquoscojos Tribes. Successive Abandonment of the Roanoke and Hatteras Colonies.


ALTHOUGH the death of Wingina seemed to have prepared the way for a more peaceful occupation of the country, yet, a general scarcity of food, combined with a most singular concurrence of untoward events, finally led to the abandonment of the island. The stringent position of affairs at Roanoke had, despite the efforts of industrious individuals, been increased by the withdrawal and hostility of the Indians, who had been chiefly relied upon for supplies of food. To relieve the colony, Captain Stafford, a prominent and energetic man, was despatched, with nineteen men, to the friendly Indian village of Croatan, on Cape Lookout, with the twofold purpose of enabling them to provide their own subsistence, and of keeping a watch for ships expected with relief from England. They had not been there more than seven days, when twenty-three sail of ships made their appearance. This fleet was commanded by Sir Francis Drake, who was returning from an expedition against the Spaniards in the West Indies, and on the Spanish main. He had taken Carthagena, plundered the capitol of Hispaniola, and burnt the towns of St. Anthony and St. Helena, on the Florida coast. Having received orders to succor the Virginia colony, he offered them a ship of seventy tons burthen, 100 men, and four months' provisions, as well as four smaller vessels. But these vessels were all driven to sea in a storm. Drake then tendered them a ship of 120 tons, but, unfortunately, it could not be navigated into the harbor of Roanoke. Under these circumstances, and in view of their having suffered much misery, and their dangerous position, the colonists, after some discussion, determined to solicit Sir Francis to convey them to England in his fleet. This favor was granted, and they arrived at Portsmouth in July, 1586. Drake was not more than a few days' sail from Roanoke on his homeward passage, when a ship of 100 tons burthen arrived from England with the expected supplies. The commander having made search for the colonists in vain, returned home with his vessel. About a fortnight after the departure of the latter ship, Sir Richard Grenville arrived with three ships, and ample supplies. Receiving no intelligence of the colony, he landed fifty men on the island of Roanoke, furnished them with provisions for two years, and then returned. To these successive arrivals and departures, the Indians

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remained silent spectators; but they could not fail to be impressed with the idea, that a nation which could furnish such resources, was not only affluent, but also in earnest.

During the month of July, of the following year (1587), three ships arrived, which had been sent out under the command of Governor John White, with the design of reinforcing and permanently establishing the colony. Making Cape Hatteras, Governor White immediately proceeded to the island of Roanoke, to seek for the fifty men, but there he found nothing but the skeleton of one man. The buildings were not destroyed, but the fort was dilapidated, and the ground in its vicinity overgrown with weeds. Governor White refitted the houses, resumed the occupancy of the spot, and established his government. Mr. Howe, one of the newly-appointed council, having wandered into the woods, was shot by one of Wingina's men. Captain Stafford, with twenty men, accompanied by Manteo, who had sailed to England with Drake, and again returned, was sent to Croatan, to make inquiries as to the fate of the fifty colonists. He was told that the colony had been attacked by 300 Secotan, Aquoscojos, and Dessamopeak Indians; and that, after a skirmish, in which but one Englishman was slain, the rest had retreated to their boat, and fled to a small island near Hatteras, where they staid some time, and then departed they knew not whither.

Governor White took immediate steps to renew and maintain a good understanding with the Indians; but he found them sullen and revengeful. Determining to evince the national indignation for the loss of the fifty colonists, by attacking the Dessamopeaks, who occupied the coast opposite Roanoke, he detailed for this purpose twenty four men, under Captain Stafford, and, with Manteo for his guide, left the island at twelve o'clock at night. At day-break they landed on the main shore, beyond the town, and assaulted four Indians sitting at a fire, killing one of them. On examination, these proved to be friendly Croatans, who had come thither to gather their corn; the Dessamopeak Indians having fled, as they then ascertained, after killing Howe. This act was much regretted by Manteo.

On the 13th of August, 1587, Manteo, who had, it is believed, made three voyages to England, and acquitted himself satisfactorily as the Mentor of the colony, was baptized in the Christian faith, receiving, the title of Lord of Roanoke. Another event signalized this month; the daughter of Governor White, married to a member of the council, was, on the 18th, delivered of a female child, which received the name of Virginia.

It now became necessary to select a person to visit England and solicit supplies. The Indians being generally hostile, the colonists could not cultivate sufficient ground to sustain themselves. England was at this time convulsed with alarm, in expectation of the descent of the Spanish Armada, and it was justly feared that the interests of the distant little colony would be overlooked. White being selected, he, before leaving the coast, established a colony of 100 men on an island off Cape Hatteras. Nothing was subsequently heard of this party. Whether they perished by the Indian tomahawk, or from starvation, has never been ascertained.

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On arriving in England, White found the nation in such great turmoil that nothing could be done. The company underwent a change, and an abortive attempt was made to send two barques from Biddeford, in 1588. Renewed efforts were made to succour the colony, but March, 1590, had arrived, before relief could be despatched to them. It was the 2d of August, before the ships under Governor White reached the latitudes of Croatan and Hatteras. At the latter place a smoke was observed; but, after diligent search where the governor had three years previously left a colony of 100 men, no traces of them could be found. Cannon were fired, but produced no other response than their own reverberations, and trumpets were sounded in vain. It appeared that the smoke arose from Indian fires, hastily or carelessly left. While prosecuting their search, they found the word "Croatan" written on a post, and, hence presumed that the Hatteras colony had gone to that place, where friendly Indians lived. No subsequent search developed any further trace of them; their fate had become identified with the mysteries of Indian history and of Indian crime. The attempts made to find this colony were, however, of a very puerile character. In the effort first made, under Governor White, two boats were despatched with a competent commander; but, in passing a bar on the Hatteras coast, one of the boats was half filled with water, and the other having been upset, the captain and six men were drowned. This accident exercised a depressing influence on the spirits of all concerned; but, at length, two other boats were fitted out, and sent off with nineteen men, on the same service. It was by the second expedition that the inscription before mentioned was found, together with the evidences of the hasty abandonment of the place by the colonists. Following the index of this inscription, the commander ordered the ships to weigh anchor and sail for Croatan on Cape Lookout. While proceeding thither, one of the vessels parted its cable, losing, not only the anchor attached, but also another, which had, in some manner, become entangled with it, and before they could drop a third anchor, they were in imminent peril of being driven on the strand. Discouraged by these attempts, and influenced by fallacious hopes of profit to be derived from a trip to the West Indies, whence they proposed to return in the spring and resume the search, they bore away for these western islands, an ever-attractive spot to those who coveted the wealth of the Spaniards. But the commander of the ships, after he had finished his cruise in the West Indies, would not again visit the Virginia coast, announcing his intention to return to England, which he did, despite all remonstrances. Nothing was ever heard of the colony supposed to have gone to Croatan, [79] and the return of Governor White to England was a virtual abandonment of Virginia; after six years fruitless toil, resigning it again to the possession of its aboriginal rulers.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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